Conservation commission OKs farmers market

Zoning board will now consider Ag Society location.

The West Tisbury Farmers Market wants to remain at the Martha's Vineyard Ag Society property. -MV Times

The West Tisbury conservation commission gave a thumbs-up to the West Tisbury Farmers Market’s plan to operate at the Martha’s Vineyard Agricultural Society grounds.

Wanting to help vendors and shoppers spread out during the pandemic, the farmers market moved from the West Tisbury Grange Hall to the grounds at the Ag Society. The nonprofit that runs the farmers market liked the new digs so much they asked the Vineyard Conservation Society (VCS) and the conservation commission, who are stewards of the property’s Agricultural Preservation Restriction (APR), to be allowed to stay. But some objections were raised over the property’s use.

Objections were resolved after the conservation commission agreed to sign two letters. The first, which will also be signed by VCS, was addressed to Ag Society executive director Lauren Lynch, secretary Rob McCarron, and Ag Society trustees. It states that farmers markets are specifically mentioned in the APR language, and the plan laid out by the West Tisbury Farmers Market seeks to mitigate impact on the site.

“That’s the kind of plan we hoped for when VCS and the conservation commission jointly expressed concerns in the earlier communication,” the letter read in part. “As you know from working cooperatively together these many years, our shared challenge has always been how to allow the full range of historically pursued activities while at the same time (1) respecting zoning, and (2) construing the concept of limits — in this case, the meaning of ‘limited’ commercial activities relating directly to MVAS’s nonprofit and educational function. Your plan to mitigate site impacts seeks to do that, for which we are grateful. Testing the mitigation plan on a trial basis therefore makes sense.”

The letter also asked for the Ag Society trustees to collect and share data on numbers of cars and weather conditions, and made a suggestion for a voluntary donation for parking.

The second letter, addressed to the West Tisbury zoning board of appeals, outlined the APR and how it permits some commercial uses if they are agricultural.

“The protections of the APR largely track those of the zoning bylaw. It prohibits detrimental uses of the property, while permitting commercial uses that are limited in nature and directly related to the landowner MV Ag Society’s agricultural purposes and educational function,” the letter said in part. “We ask that you ensure that any action taken under the town’s special permit granting authority aligns with the town’s APR responsibilities.”

Over 35 people signed on to the Zoom meeting, but commissioners repeatedly said Tuesday’s meeting was not a public hearing, and was only a formality to sign off on the letters clarifying the property’s APR use.

The issue now heads to an in-person meeting with the zoning board of appeals for a special permit application on Thursday, May 12, at 5 pm. The special permit for agricultural retail is required because the area is zoned rural. 


  1. Is the same “Farmers Market” which allows it’s musical performers to sell such renowned agricultural products as their own promotional T-shirts?
    Skipper was right.

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